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On Letting Things Go and Cultivating a Creative Practice

I read 219 books last year. Yes, you read that number correctly. Two-hundred nineteen, and that doesn’t even count all the picture books. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I needed those stories to get me through one of the hardest years I’ve had in a while, to allow me to escape an incredibly toxic work situation. Then I needed them as comfort when everything around me was suddenly new. It wasn’t mindless. I remember all of what I read – even now, could recount at least the major plot points and favorite moments if asked, could place them in their proper month. But I didn’t savor* them. I devoured them.

*This is not to say books cannot be savored at this pace. I just wasn’t doing it.

So when January rolled around, I decided to set my Goodreads challenge considerably lower, with a goal of a book per week (or 52 total). The thing was, I hadn’t yet reset my thinking about reading. I was still worried about keeping up with publication dates for reviews. I was still counting each one as I finished it, racing without realizing it. I hit my goal in March.

That was when things started to change. I decided I would leave my goal as is, and I stopped counting. I forgave myself for the pub dates I missed, cancelled or postponed audiobook holds that felt like they were coming my way too quickly, and just picked up a book when I felt like it. This had the strange side effect of fracturing my attention somewhat. All of the sudden I was juggling 5-8 books at any given time vs my usual 2-3. But that didn’t feel like added pressure; just added options. And those options began to include the creative outlets I thought I’d lost.

I’m writing again. I’m playing guitar every few days just because. I opened Pro Tools for the first time in over 4 years and just futzed around mixing old sessions. And in between kitchen experiments and walks around the block to watch the birds, I’m writing lists of what I might want to record next. I feel so free.

I’m not saying anything you haven’t already heard some version of or another. Mostly, I’m writing this as a reminder to myself of what contentment can look like when I just let myself be and do what I need to rest, recover, and return to myself. But it feels worth saying that we all deserve to give ourselves that grace.

When I started the year, I set the goal to post to this blog at least twice each month. I created a schedule of book reviews to complete and when to write them. But even for my routine-oriented mind, that rigidity was too much and instead of keeping up, I got caught in an anxious spiral. I think, if I’m learning anything these days, it’s that creating consistently isn’t about scheduling that creativity; it’s about making space for it.

So here’s me, 10:30pm on a Wednesday, sitting down to write with Schitt’s Creek on in the background because an idea struck me in the shower. And maybe I’m just writing into the ether, but I did always like the idea of a message in a bottle that reaches the person who needs it most (and mixing metaphors, apparently). Oh and next year? I think I’ll reset my Goodreads challenge to 12.

My list of creative pursuits:

  • Songwriting
  • Guitar
  • Recording
  • Photography
  • Reading
  • Baking/Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Doodling

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